Suicide In Julius Caesar And Hamlet

1663 Words 7 Pages
William Shakespeare is a master writer who addresses sensitive and controversial subjects in his work. In his plays Julius Caesar and Hamlet, he touches on timeless social issues such as suicide. Shakespeare tackles suicide and the weight it carries with different individuals within different cultures. Julius Caesar depicts suicide through Brutus and Cassius, the leading conspirators in the murder of Julius Caesar. Taking place in Rome when honor, valor, and triumph were the most important values; Brutus, Cassius, and other Romans considered suicide an honorable way to die. However, Hamlet, which takes place in more conservative late medieval Denmark, where suicide is frowned upon and even, deemed a sin. Hamlet, like Julius Caesar, is also …show more content…
The concept of an afterlife weighs heavily on Hamlet’s mind as he contemplates his death and while killing others in hopes of revenge. A comparison of the views of suicide in these two plays helps one distinguish the spiritual differences between Rome and other parts of Europe, specifically Denmark. The most important distinction is that Hamlet worries about the unknowns of the afterlife. Religion and the complex relationship between God and humans are on Hamlet’s mind. This is apparent in Act 3 Scene 3 Line 73 when Hamlet resists killing Claudius while praying because he does not feel it is appropriate revenge to kill someone who is praying because Claudius would be forgiven and sent to heaven and therefore Hamlet decides it would not be proper revenge for a murderer. With this explicit mentioning of heaven and prayer, which is not present in Julius Caesar, it is clear that religion guides actions and virtues in late Medieval Denmark and Europe. When Hamlet considers suicide, he thinks of God’s commandment “thou shall not kill,” in Act 1 Scene 2 Line 132 Hamlet says, “His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter. Oh God, God,” (Hamlet). This direct reference to God and his commandments explains Hamlet’s perception of suicide. However, he seems to ignore this commandment when he seeks revenge. He chooses to ignore the commandment not to kill when he believes it is an act of revenge. It is a bizarre paradoxical concept for Hamlet to find it acceptable to murder for revenge of his father’s murder, but believe killing oneself is a sin. One of the most famous quotes from Hamlet is when Hamlet is considering suicide, “to be, or not to be,” (Hamlet 3.1.56). In this soliloquy he goes on to compare death to sleep and discusses the concept of dreaming in death, however, he assumes there is a risk that that dream will be dreadful, therefore once again his biggest fear with death is the unknown

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